I’m busy preparing for my trip, and so will have to send you around a bit the next few days. Worth reading today is Jason Rosenhouse’s take on multiverses: the idea that there could be more than one universe. Jason was stimulated by an article in Scientific American about the concept (sadly, not free in its entirety), and responses by physicists by Alexander Vilenkin and Max Tegmark defending the possibility of multiverses (fortunately, free here). A few years ago, having talked to several physicists about the idea, I wrote about it in The New Republic:
The idea of multiple universes may seem like a desperate move–a Hail Mary thrown out by physicists who are repelled by religious explanations. But physics is full of ideas that are completely counterintuitive, and multiverse theories fall naturally out of long-standing ideas of physics. They represent physicists’ attempts to give a naturalistic explanation for what others see as evidence of design. For many scientists, multiverses seem far more reasonable than the solipsistic assumption that our own universe with its 10,000,000,000,000,000 planets was created just so a single species of mammal would evolve on one of them fourteen billion years later.
It’s important for all of us to at least become acquainted with this theory because, as Jason points out, it has theological implications—not only about whether our planet is the special object of God’s attention, but because multiverses are relevant to the “fine-tuning” argument for God beloved of religious scientists. Theologians often sneer at the multiverse theory as a ploy atheistic physicists to reject what they see as strong evidence for God. That’s why it’s important (beyond simply keeping up with exciting ideas in cosmology) to know why physicists posit multiverses, and to see that the idea is not something scientists concocted to get around the fine-tuning arguments. And, as Rosenhouse notes:
And let us not forget that the God hypothesis, which is, after all, the preferred alternative of Haught and Polkinghorne, also puts forth a speculative, unobservable entity without a trace of experimental support. The multiverse hypothesis at least arises as a natural consequence of certain theories that have a sound, evidential basis. The God hypothesis is just invented from whole cloth, and is supported solely by philosophical gobbledygook like the cosmological argument.
Vilenkin and Tegmark discuss the science, and Rosenhouse goes after the theology. They’re all short pieces, so do read them.
Speaking of the cosmological argument, if you can stand any more Edward “You-Can’t-Understand-It-Until-You’ve-Read-Dozens-of-Books” Feser, he has a new post on the subject,”So you think you understand the cosmological argument?“ We don’t, of course, for we haven’t read Feser’s two books on the topic. As Feser says, “while the basic structure of the main versions of the argument is fairly simple, the background metaphysics necessary to a proper understanding of the key terms and inferences is not.” Oy gewalt!